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Not all businesses hurt by economy

February 02, 2009|By ANDREW GAY / For The Herald-Mail

Although the poor economy has some businesses seeing red on their balance sheets, others are finding their businesses have held their own or improved because of the country's fiscal woes.

Employees at businesses such as pawnshops and thrift stores say they have seen an increase in the number of people visiting their stores in an effort to soften the blow on their wallets.

The Salvation Army in Hagerstown has seen many more people come in to shop at its thrift store on Frederick Street since mid-2008, according to Maj. Robert Lyle with the Hagerstown branch of The Salvation Army.

"Since late September to early December, there was a huge influx of people coming into the thrift shop," Lyle said.

He said people come in to shop for clothing, furniture and miscellaneous items, like toys and dishware.

Lyle also said The Salvation Army has seen an increase in the number of people seeking help, and he has noticed fewer items are being donated to thrift stores.

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"People are holding onto their things for longer," he said.

Other thrift stores in the area, such as World Treasures Thrift Shop on West Franklin Street, are also seeing an increase in business.

World Treasures, part of the Franklin Mennonite Conference, sells items ranging from clothing to furniture, and all profits go toward the conference's relief work.

Angel Food Ministries is also seeing the effects of the economy, with more participation in its monthly food sales. Angel Food Ministries is a national food relief program.

Pastor James Murr of the Hagerstown host site at Concordia Lutheran Church said its Angel Food program saw more activity toward the end of 2008.

Murr said the location filled orders for 500 units of food packages. Other area churches also had orders, for a total of 700 units in December.

"It was extra busy for December. Some people ordered enough for a couple of months," Murr said.

Angel Food Ministries put together food boxes people can order and pick up during a given month's distribution day. The $30 regular boxes contain items such as peas, broccoli, steak and chicken breast strips. Many people order more than one box.

Carroll Gatling, an associate at the host site, said business has been high in the six months since the drive began and it has become easier to serve people after switching delivery locations from Frederick, Md., to Hagerstown.

"It's a mob scene on Saturdays," Gatling said.

People also are seeking financial help any way they can, including taking out loans. More people have been going to Oakfirst Loan Center on Maryland Avenue in Hagerstown to obtain personal loans.

"More people are coming to us because (banks) are tightening up on them," Oakfirst branch manager Theresa Rowe said.

Rowe said many banks are turning down more private loans.

"People are asking, 'Are you guys giving loans, because other people are not,'" she said.

Some area pawnbrokers also report that business is up. Washington Street Pawnbrokers at 47 E Washington St. in Hagerstown has seen a rise in its business since last fall.

"It's good for the new year in both ways (buying and selling)," said Laurelyn, a co-owner of the shop who asked that only her first name be used.

Famous Pawnbrokers on Dual Highway is owned by First Cash Financial Services. FCFS deals mainly with cash advances and pawnbrokering, operating a number of stores in the Maryland and Washington, D.C., areas.

FCFS has seen a rise in its public stock since 2003, with its stock moving from $3 a share at the beginning of 2003 to a high of $25 in mid-2007, according to the NASDAQ.

Lately, shares have been hovering around $17 to $19 each.

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